As the infighting in the Madhya Pradesh Congress, between veteran Digvijay Singh and royal scion Jyotiraditya Scindia escalates, party president Sonia Gandhi intervenes.
Clouds over Madhya Pradesh Congress due to the conflicting aspirations of former Gwalior royal Jyotiraditya Scindia and former chief minister Digvijay Singh to lead the party in the state are getting darker. The intensified feud in the ruling party has forced interim party chief Sonia Gandhi now to look for steps to douse the fire that threatens to prematurely bring down the Kamal Nath government.
Sonia realises that the flames of the fire in Madhya Pradesh could burn the party's electoral chances in neighbouring Maharashtra and Jharkhand where Assembly polls are scheduled in October-November.
The bouts of mud-slinging within the Congress in MP have revolved around corruption allegations against Digvijay made by Scindia loyalists in the 28-member state Cabinet and counter allegations by Digvijay that Scindia is trying to foment trouble within the party by triggering a rebellion by his loyalists. While Scindia, who played a key role along with Nath and Digvijay to end the BJP's 15-year-rule in the last Assembly polls, has been seeking probe into allegations against Diggy raja, there are claims from the Digvijay camp that the Gwalior royal has been using other party leaders as a mask to tarnish the former's image.
Scindia, who lost the Guna Lok Sabha seat in May, is keen to return from political wilderness and head the party in the state, replacing Nath who is currently holding dual charge of CM and state Congress president. His aspirations, however, are believed to have run into a Digvijay wall with the former CM in no mood to report to party young turk. The end result of this log-jam has been the continuance of Nath on the post of MP Congress chief while also serving as the CM.
The Gwalior royal family's scion appears to suspect a nefarious design behind his recent appointment as chairman of the screening committee for Maharashtra Assembly elections later this year, as the new assignment comes close to his previous one as incharge of West Uttar Pradesh LS poll.
Scindia confidants believe the Maharashtra responsibility is yet another attempt to keep him out of state politics and delay the selection of a new Congress chief in Madhya Pradesh – a post for which Scindia has made a very strong pitch.
Scindia's bete noire Digvijay is opposed to Nath being replaced as Congress chief by the Gwalior strongman. As a strategy to counter Scindia's claim to the top post, Diggy raja has himself staked a claim for the MP Congress president's post.
Scindia has been unhappy ever since his supporters claimed that Nath and Digvijay had joined hands to ensure that the Gwalior strongman was not made the CM after the Assembly polls in November last year.
A disillusioned Scindia met Sonia in Delhi to share his concern and the crucial meeting came within week of the former Guna MP taking to symbolic rebellion and warning that he might shift to some other options if he is not given charge of the state party unit.
Political analysts say there is no denying the fact that there is some sort of understanding between Nath and Digvijay. They point to allegations of some Scindia loyalists that Diggy is running the state government from behind the scene and increasingly interfering in the functioning of officials, especially in matters related to transfers.
However, the biggest gainer of the internal feud in the party has been Nath who is hanging on to the Congress president's post while reassuring MLAs that he is fully in control of the party and the government.
As Scindia and Diggy lock there horns in their battle for calling the shots in the state Congress unit, Nath has been tactfully offering to step down from the post of president of state Congress as he realises that he may not be replaced till the party resolves his two party colleagues' feud.
Amid the mudslinging between Scindia and Digvijay camps, Scindia supporters - transport minister Govind Singh Rajput and Labour minister Mahendra Singh Sisodia - have voiced their concern over alleged intervention in governance by Singh.
Gohad MLA Ranvir Jatav has also threatened to quit the Congress and join the BJP if alleged illegal mining of sand under the protection of a state minister and Digvijay Singh is not stopped.
Scindia has also sought a probe into allegations levelled by Forest Minister Umang Singhar that Digvijay Singh is a “blackmailer” and allegedly providing patronage to the liquor and mining mafia.
A baffled Kamal Nath somehow manage to broker truce between his minister and Digvijay Singh but the uneasy calm in the party is likely to give enough ammunition to rivals like the BJP.
A letter purportedly written by Diggy to all ministers, including those close to Scindia, seeking report on the progress made in execution of his recommendations to them regarding transfer of officers in their departments added to the turmoil in the party, which both Diggy and Nath denying that there was interference in governance by anyone.
Nath issued a statement, “My position as CM has not been challenged by anybody in the party.”
BJP leader and former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan slammed the Congress government for making the people of the state suffer due to poor governance that has been the real casualty of their party's infighting. The Congress is a divided house and to overcome internal problems, they are blaming the BJP for all their problems but they are the real looters, said BJP leader and former minister Vishwas Sarang.
Bhind legislator Sanjiv Singh Kushwaha, BSP, said the Congress is facing fighting within and the party will have to first satisfy its legislators before taking on the BJP.
Ahead of crucial state Assembly polls later this year in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana, Sonia Gandhi is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the “rebellion” in state unit of MP does not mar the party's image in other states.
Scindia's veiled threat to leave the Congress comes close to similar vibes given by former Haryana CM B S Hooda who was made the Haryana election committee incharge and his bete noire and Haryana Cong chief Ashok Tanwar was sacked within days of his symbolic rebellion against the party.
Jyotiraditya, meanwhile, has to wait to see if by deploying Hooda's strategy of threatening to leave the party proves as beneficial to him as it did in the case of Hooda in Haryana.
Sonia is treading cautiously by seeking a report from state in-charge Deepak Babaria over the infighting issue. There is no doubt that the political future of Scindia may decide the fate of the Congress in MP. His threatened exit may have a bearing on Congress popularity in neighbouring states like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat whose parts were once ruled by his forefathers. Sonia's delicate balancing act, expected to come into public domain soon, is likely to soothe egos and strengthen party whose future in the state would continue to be dictated by the power troika of Nath, Digvijay and Scindi